Text by Greyson Meyer
Photography Copyright Rick Martin Photography
In 1775, Francis and Agnes Watkins began construction on what would serve as their home for the next 47 years. Located in Prince Edward County, the small brick farmhouse was the genesis of the Poplar Hill Manor.
After Francis and Agnis’s passing in 1822, the house was acquired by their daughter, Frances, and her husband. The couple quickly sold the house, and the property changed hands several times throughout the years until a renowned tobacco tycoon named Walter Grey Dunnington purchased the home in 1897.
During his ownership, Dunnington made several major changes to the home, greatly enlarging the property and adding a grand Victorian-style face. The 8,500 square foot home now featured two main floors with an additional full basement and open attic, a drastic improvement from its humble roots as a small farmhouse.
In 1922, Dunnington passed away. For the next 40 years, his wife, India, continued to live in the home until she died at the ripe age of 103.
Unfortunately, though it was maintained and lived in, no additional information on the home can be found during the period of 1960 to 1998. However, in 1999 the manor was sold as a resort but fell into disrepair soon after.
Over the years, the estate’s 1100 acres have been sold off. Several outbuildings surrounding the manor house, of which consisted a cabin, two barns, an apple house, ice house, garage, several machine sheds and two remaining slave houses, were demolished. The remaining land has been transformed into a golf resort.
Today, the Manor stands forlorn and empty. However, though it remains vacant, the house itself is remarkably untouched and free of vandalism. The walls are refreshingly absent of graffiti and, other than a few broken windows, the residence shows no other signs of deliberate destruction.
Unfortunately, after its near two-decades of neglect, the building has begun to show its age in several major ways. The once manicured garden surrounding it has crept up on the house, the thick foliage now threatening to swallow it entirely. A portion of the roof has caved in and, as a result, the structure has begun to decay.
Moisture wreaks havoc on its interior. Sheets of wallpaper have begun their slow descent towards the floor, and the hardwood itself has become soft in spots. The future does not bode well for this once impressive homestead.